A major repair company in regional Victoria with a “strong reputation” is now the main focus of Australia’s most baffling missing persons investigation.
The Inland Motor Body Works workshop, owned by missing mother-of-three Samantha Murphy and her husband Mick, is the largest in the Ballarat region, northwest of Melbourne.
Ms Murphy has not been seen since she left her home in Ballarat East at 7am on February 4 to go jogging in a state forest on the outskirts of the regional town.
While searches in the woods have yet to shed light on what may have happened to Ms Murphy, attention has now turned to her successful repair business.
CCTV captured Samantha Murphy’s last known movements on the morning of February 4
Speculation about outlaw biker gangs patronizing the store has circulated in the Ballarat community since the 51-year-old went missing.
The Ballarat community is no stranger to cycling violence, with a senior member of the Bandidos being shot in their clubhouse during the club’s national race just a few months ago.
Victoria Police Missing Persons Unit Superintendent Mark Hatt on Friday refused to answer questions about possible links to the motorcyclists and Ms Murphy’s disappearance.
However, he confirmed that detectives were closely examining the tinker’s books.
The Murphy family business, Inland Motor Body Works, (pictured) is being investigated by police as part of their search for Samantha Murphy.
Police also reportedly took a number of “items of interest” from the repair shop.
“We are absolutely investigating everything we can to find out what happened to Samantha,” Superintendent Hatt said.
The results of that line of research will not be discussed.
He also did not say which vehicles had been searched or where they had been obtained from.
When asked if police had executed any search warrants in relation to the search, Superintendent Hatt refused to answer.
The car shop’s website describes itself as “Ballarat’s preferred choice for major repairs” and has developed a “strong reputation over 60 years”.
Ms. Murphy is listed as the head of administration and “backbone” of the office, and her duties include “keeping Mick under control.”
Superintendent Hatt also said police suspect Ms Murphy’s body may have been removed from the area where they are searching.
Murphy’s husband is seen speaking to police during the investigation into his wife’s disappearance.
‘That is certainly a scenario we are studying. “Based on our elimination process, we believe another party, either one person or multiple people, has been involved,” he stated.
His family and closest loved ones are considered “persons of interest,” but no suspect has been identified.
Murphy was wearing an Apple Watch while running, but police have not yet revealed whether they obtained any information from the device.
Police have now ruled out any idea that Ms Murphy went missing due to a medical problem or simply because she wanted to disappear.
Supt Hatt claimed the 7km run to where her phone died took the experienced runner more than an hour, about half an hour longer than it should have.
Although not stated directly, Superintendent Hatt suggested that police believed whoever helped Ms Murphy disappear had specifically targeted her.
“We have no information or evidence to suggest there is any risk to anyone else,” he said.
Police continue to review 12,000 hours of CCTV footage and 500 separate intelligence reports from community members.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.